According to a recent survey, 80% of health plans consider member engagement to be a top priority. This percentage is an indication that most health plans recognize the increasingly competitive nature of the insurance marketplace. Especially when it comes to Medicare, today’s consumers know that if they aren’t satisfied with their choice, they can enroll elsewhere during their next annual enrollment period or, in some cases, even sooner.
This is good news for consumers, but it also means that health plans need to rethink how they approach both member onboarding and retention if they want to remain competitive. With the right strategies in place, these two areas can act as cornerstones to a plan’s financial success while actively improving the health and satisfaction of its members. Also, focusing on member experience can improve STAR ratings based on new question weighting and increased CMS focus.
Rethink the Onboarding Process
The first few months of a new membership are critical when it comes to establishing member expectations and reducing abrasion. To do this successfully, you need to move beyond a transactional experience and work to create a more personal relationship with your members from the very start. Here’s how:
1. Start with a welcome call.
Reach out to new members before they use their benefits for the first time. That way, you can talk to them before they hit any abrasion, while getting a better idea of who your new members are and what they expect out of their plan. This call is also the first step in building a customer relationship management (CRM) profile that will help you deliver an optimized experience going forward.
2. Modernize your welcome kit.
For many customers, a traditional welcome guide will have all the appeal of a VCR instruction manual. Instead of overwhelming customers with big blocks of text, create short video content to address common questions. Members are more likely to watch video content than to read pages of text on the same subject matter. Make sure these videos are prominently displays—both on your website and in relevant communications—so members don’t have to search for content or resort to calling customer service, which could result in a potentially frustrating experience. Also, allow the video content to be accessed from your mobile app so that members see additional value in downloading and using the app.
3. Communicate like a person, not a company.
If every communication with a customer is transactional in nature, then you’ll struggle to establish a relationship that can last. Move beyond simple claims and payment status updates to check in on members’ well-being. Set up virtual town hall meetings where they can get the information they need and have their questions answered. Also, reach out to members when there are real-life events that might affect their health or well-being, and offer support services.
Successful onboarding lays the foundation of a relationship that will ideally last a long time. Once the onboarding phase is over, retention efforts should begin, working off the knowledge gained during this process and helping to ensure that members continue to make the most of their plans and see the value of their health plan on an ongoing basis.
A More Modern Retention Approach
Retention is an active process. To ensure that your members see the value of their healthcare plans, you need to empower them to be more active in their care and use the data you collect to create customized solutions for their particular needs. Here’s how:
1. Improve health literacy skills.
According to the CDC, only 12% of adults possess proficient health literacy skills. Make sure you’re doing your best to educate your members on how their plans can be used to improve and maintain good health. Develop a website and mobile app that provide accessible information and make clear where people can reach out if they need additional help.
Don’t hesitate to go back to the basics and teach members how to read and understand their EOB, EOCs, etc. Health plans assume members understand all the communications that are sent, but that is rarely the case. This knowledge consistently improves member satisfaction and reduces 90-day customer service call volume when implemented correctly.
2. Use data from the member journey to improve interactions.
With the right data, you can discover not only which communication pathways members prefer, but also when you need to reach out to help solve a problem or guide somebody along on their education or health journey. The best way to accomplish this is to invest in a robust CRM and setting up a marketing automation system.
These tools can help you track customers across every interaction and touchpoint, helping you map out each unique journey and adjust your approach accordingly—while allowing you to deploy multiple campaigns across hundreds of thousands of members with very little marketing staff involvement. Ultimately, profiling members on the basis of utilization, engagement, STAR measure, etc., will provide better understanding of the overall membership and allow for the development of custom communication pathways that feel real and relevant to the member.
3. Regularly reevaluate.
Customer needs are always changing. To keep up, you must be willing to reconsider your approach based on the facts and results. In addition to relying on the data you’re already collecting, conduct regular surveys in which you directly ask your customers about their experiences and expectations. Then, compare what customers want with what you’re doing to see where you can improve.
How you approach onboarding and retention impacts more than just your bottom line. It also affects the member experience and even STAR ratings. By taking a more modern approach to these crucial elements, you can improve the satisfaction and stickiness of your members.